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Michael  Zoghbi  
Pete  4999  
February  19,  2016  
What  is  a  Petroleum  Engineer?  
 

In  a  world  run  primarily  by  hydrocarbons,  the  producers  of  such  a  precious  resource  are  of  vast  

importance.  A  Petroleum  Engineer  is  an  educated  problem  solver,  an  explorer  of  opportunity,  a  long  
term  planner,  and  sometimes  a  risk  taker.  Petroleum  hydrocarbons  produce  over  1000  different  
products  and  are  heavily  depended  on  in  our  daily  lives  in  the  form  of  energy.  It  is  the  job  of  the  
Petroleum  Engineer  to  discover  and  produce  these  hydrocarbons.  This  resource  is  then  exported  and  
heavily  consumed  by  the  many  different  energy  sectors.  Therefore,  Petroleum  Engineers  will  always  be  
in  demand,  as  long  as  the  demand  for  hydrocarbons  is  intact.  A  Petroleum  Engineer’s  main  concern  is  
the  production  of  hydrocarbons;  therefore,  it  is  essential  to  understand  the  nature  of  this  product.    
 

Petroleum  hydrocarbons  take  many  forms.  The  most  common  forms  that  are  primarily  

produced  in  their  most  raw  state  are  crude  oil  and  natural  gas.  Petroleum  is  the  result  of  the  
decomposition  of  organic  material  over  the  course  of  millions  of  years.  This  decomposed  organic  matter  
in  its  purest  form  is  nothing  more  than  a  combination  of  hydrogen  and  carbon.  Thus,  the  name  
hydrocarbons  is  often  associated  with  petroleum  products.    Because  these  hydrocarbons  are  
understood  as  originating  from  such  ancient  matter,  they  are  also  referred  to  as  “fossil  fuels.”  
Although  we  have  sufficient  data  and  reliable  technology  to  produce  and  consume  petroleum  
hydrocarbons,  there  are  still  many  scientific  mysteries  associated  with  this  field.  This  is  primarily  due  to  
the  fact  that  what  is  being  produced  can  never  be  witnessed  in  its  natural  state  thousands  of  feet  deep  
into  the  earth,  and  also  because  the  process  of  million  year  old  decomposition  can  also  never  be  
witnessed.    “There  is  probably  no  other  technical  field  in  which  so  many  major  questions  remain  
unanswered  and  yet  which  functions  as  efficiently  as  the  oil  industries…  In  short,  we  don’t  know  what  it  

is,  how  it  originates  and  accumulates,  how  to  find  it,  or  how  to  get  it  all  out  of  the  ground”  (Petroleum  
Engineering  ,Gatlin,  Page  1,  Paragraph  1).  Although  scientific  proof  and  theory  can  never  be  fully  
satisfied  with  controlled  understanding  of  this  process,  Petroleum  Engineers  nevertheless  are  able  to  
develop  technology  and  methods  for  efficient  and  safe  extraction.  Drilling  for  petroleum  is  no  easy  task,  
it  requires  multiple  Petroleum  engineers  all  of  whom  specialize  in  a  separate  part  of  the  drilling  process.    
 

 It  is  a  typical  misconception  that  a  Petroleum  Engineer  is  a  specialized  discipline.  Much  like  a  

doctor  chooses  a  specialization,  a  Petroleum  Engineer  also  specializes  in  one  of  the  many  tasks  required  
to  complete  the  project  at  hand.  “It  is  a  common  belief  that  all  one  has  to  do  is  drill  a  well  and  then  
receive  dividend  checks.  This  is  far  from  the  true  condition”  (Oil  Field  Practice,  Dorsey  Hager,  Pg.  5,  
Paragraph  3).  It  takes  the  knowledge  and  expertise  of  many  specialized  engineers  to  cover  all  aspects  of  
the  project.  Often  there  are  three  main  sub  disciplines  or  specialties  associated  with  Petroleum  
Engineering:  reservoir,  drilling  and  production.    
 

As  a  reservoir  engineer  focuses  on  designing  the  overall  plan  for  efficient  extraction.  This  is  done  

through  studying  the  subsurface  conditions,  drawing  correlations,  and  understanding  the  nature  of  how  
petroleum  behaves  under  these  sub  surface  conditions.  Modern  reservoir  engineers  are  also  responsible  
for  planning  the  implementation  of  various  recovery  tactics.  EOR  is  the  third  stage  of  recovery  after  
primary  and  secondary  recovery  techniques  have  been  exhausted.    “With  much  of  the  easy-­‐to-­‐produce  
oil  already  recovered  from  U.S.  oil  fields,  producers  have  attempted  several  tertiary,  or  enhanced  oil  
recovery  (EOR),  techniques  that  offer  prospects  for  ultimately  producing  30  to  60  percent,  or  more,  of  
the  reservoir's  original  oil  in  place”  (Enhanced  oil  recovery,    www.enery.gov,  paragraph  2).  This  means  
that  the  bulk  of  the  oil  produced  is  actually  done  by  artificial  stimulation,  rather  than  relying  on  the  
natural  bottom  hole  conditions.  Once  the  target  zone  is  located  and  an  overall  framework  is  set  in  stone,  
the  drilling  engineer  is  then  charged  with  the  execution  of  reaching  the  target  depth.      

 

The  drilling  engineer  is  responsible  safely  reaching  the  target  depth  in  a  cost  effective  and  timely  

manner.  There  are  many  dangers  associated  with  the  heavy  machinery  and  strenuous  work  conditions.  
The  drilling  engineer  must  work  hand  in  hand  with  the  reservoir  engineer  to  understand  the  nature  of  
the  sub  surface  in  order  not  over  balance  the  pressure  distribution  and  have  a  blowout.  When  drilling  
into  permeable  formations,  failure  to  maintain  sufficient  bottom  hole  pressure  in  the  form  of  drilling  
mud  is  the  primary  cause  of  taking  a  kick.  “The  drilling  engineer  has  the  responsibility  to  think  beyond  
simply  the  engineering  equations  in  combating  some  of  these  problems.  He  or  she  must  anticipate  
drilling  problems,  devise  solutions,  think  quickly  and  decisively.”  (Drilling  Engineering,  Azar,  page  4,  
paragraph  2)    Professor  Azar  of  Tulsa  University  understands  the  complexity  and  intuitiveness  associated  
with  drilling  engineering.  With  so  many  unique  sub  surface  conditions,  innumerable  problems  arise  with  
drilling,  requiring  the  engineer  to  be  preventative  and  expectant  of  such  emergencies.    
 

The  production  engineer  monitors  and  maintains  down  hole  conditions  during  drilling  and  

production.  The  production  engineer  also  efficiently  manages  the  timeliest  possible  recovery  for  the  life  
of  the  well.  Barrels  of  oil  are  priced  by  their  ability  to  be  produced  on  time.  Therefore  it  is  crucial  to  the  
overall  economic  feasibility  to  undergo  a  complete  workover  on  a  well,  that  a  production  engineer  
recovers  the  oil  efficiently  and  quickly.    The  production  engineer  also  works  with  downstream  refining  
engineers  to  appropriately  refine  and  export  the  hydrocarbons  to  their  respective  destinations.    
 

“That  the  oil  and  gas  industry  is  profitable  is  largely  due  to  the  emergence  of  petroleum  

engineering  and  the  techniquies  which  have  been  developed  for  its  application”  (Petroleum  Engineering:  
Principles  and  Practice,  Archer  and  Wall,  Page  10,  paragraph  4).  Petroleum  engineers  are  critical  
thinkers,  institutive  problem  solvers,  explorers  and  gamblers,  and  above  all  else  innovators.  Through  
breakthroughs  in  technology,  the  production  of  hydrocarbons  has  become  incredibly  efficient,  cost  
effective  and  safe  for  the  worker  and  environment  alike.  Petroleum  Engineers  are  the  fathers  of  energy  
in  a  world  that  heavily  depends  on  their  practice.  

Bibliography:  
 
 Archer,  J.  S.,  and  C.  G.  Wall.  Petroleum  Engineering:  Principles  and  Practice.  London:  Graham  &  
Trotman,  1986.  Print.  
 
Azar,  Jamal  J.,  and  G.  Robello.  Samuel.  Drilling  Engineering.  Tulsa,  OK:  PennWell,  2007.  Print.  
 
"Enhanced  Oil  Recovery."  Enhanced  Oil  Recovery.  Web.  16  Feb.  2016.  
Gatlin,  Carl.  Petroleum  Engineering:  Drilling  and  Well  Completions.  Englewood  Cliffs,  NJ:  Prentice-­‐Hall,  
1960.  Print.  
 
Hager,  Dorsey.  Oil-­‐field  Practice.  New  York:  McGraw-­‐Hill,  1921.  Print.  

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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